Continuing the legacy of Sen. Domenici
When Sen. Pete V. Domenici passed away last week, many proclaimed it the end of an era. It does not have to be so. Sen. Domenici left a legacy with us. Throughout his political career, he demonstrated a spirit of bipartisanship and commonsense pragmatism. With him, the needs of New Mexico always came first.
He set a brilliant example of what it means to be a public servant. Whether we choose to follow his lead is up to us.
Sen. Domenici did not believe in flash. When limousines were sent to pick him up, he would waive them off and take a cab. His favorite food was a greasy hamburger. He was a lunch-pail kind of guy who did not care about your background or political leanings. Titles did not impress him. If you were willing to work with him, he was willing to work with you. It was just that simple.
Today’s political culture celebrates drama, creating an environment in which politicians cannot give their proposals meaning without demeaning the opposing side.
Sen. Domenici rejected this grandstanding. He cared about results. That is the core of what mattered to him. He never let ideology get in the way of a good deal.
Pete Domenici brokered plenty of good deals during his Senate career — agreements that helped his beloved New Mexico and made the world a better place for us all.
He and Sen. Jeff Bingaman made a formidable team in the U.S. Senate. Together, they helped protect New Mexico’s military bases, advocated on behalf of our state’s tribes and pueblos, and strengthened our nation’s energy economy.
Sen. Domenici stood up to President Ronald Reagan during the budget battles of the 1980s because he felt an obligation to future generations to hold down the national debt. He partnered with liberal lions like Sens. Paul Wellstone and Ted Kennedy to pass the
monumental Mental Health Parity Act of 2008. Generations not yet born will benefit from Domenici’s pivotal role in funding and promoting the human genome project, which is leading to tools to predict, diagnose and cure thousands of hereditary diseases.
When Bill Richardson became governor, Sen. Domenici worked with him to improve New Mexico’s highways, build The University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center and increase education funding for our children.
Sen. Domenici also was responsible for placing millions of acres of New Mexico’s uniquely beautiful landscape under federal protection, something for which he did not receive enough credit during his lifetime.
Partisanship in American politics has existed since the days of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. To say that a political consensus-building is a quaint or old-fashioned notion is a cop-out.
We do not have to be slaves to the 24/7 news mavens bent on teasing conflict out of every comment for the sake of ratings, page views or “likes.” There is another way.
Listen to opposing viewpoints. Do not vilify others. Be optimistic. Work hard. Identify common ground. Learn to compromise if it promotes the greater good.
These are the lessons to be learned from Sen. Domenici. He showed us that one could participate in political life with honor, civility and humility. He consistently put the interests of his state and his country ahead of his own. That is the true definition of public service.
Sen. Pete Domenici gave us a map to the high road. Let us honor him and his legacy by taking it.
Republican Leader Rep. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque was a member of Sen. Pete Domenici’s staff from 1998 through 2007.